Unwelcome Horse Pasture Plants Got Your Goat? Get a Goat!

Goats were effective at defoliating invasive plant species, which allowed for improved forage availability in pastures.
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Unwanted Horse Pasture Plants Got Your Goat? Get a Goat!
Guthrie and colleagues brought in 15 yearling Boer cross goats to browse and defoliate undesirable plant species in Michigan horse pastures. | Photo: Courtesy Thomas Guthrie

Many horse owners dream of pastures filled with lush green grass; free of mud, rocks, and other hazards; and devoid of weeds and unwanted plants. Many horse owners’ reality? Something slightly less idyllic—desirable forage grazed down regularly, invasive or other unwelcome plants taking over, and a muddy high-traffic area that seems to get bigger by the day.

While the muddy messes are, indeed, their own animal to manage, there’s an easy and effective solution for overgrown pastures that could benefit from additional space for preferable forages to prosper: goats.

Last year, Michigan horse farm owner Bess Ohlgren–Miller realized that an influx of invasive plants (including autumn olive, buckthorn, and multiflora rose) was reducing the amount of forage available in her farm’s pastures and turned to Michigan State University (MSU) Extension agents for help. After determining that mechanical and chemical plant removal weren’t viable options (they were deemed too expensive or ill-advised due to water-quality concerns), the agents thought a biological option—using goats to eat the unwelcome plants—might be a solution

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Written by:

Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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